“Devil” still making the rounds: Week 2

March 27, 2014 by · 5 Comments 

Devil Walks in Mattingly promo picIt’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks since The Devil Walks in Mattingly was officially released March 11. My sincere thanks for continuing to help get the word out.

Here’s some of what’s been going on in the past week:

Interviews

Novel Crossing The Five Books That Changed My Life: Billy Coffey

Litfuse Group Get to know Billy Coffey

katdish.net The Revealing Billy Coffey Multiple Choice Interview

Relz Reviewz Character Spotlight: Meet Billy Coffey’s Jake and Taylor

Maureen Doallas at Writing without Paper Monday Muse: New Interview with Billy Coffey

Faith Village The Story Behind “The Devil Walks in Mattingly”

A Christian Writer’s World THE DEVIL WALKS IN MATTINGLY – Billy Coffey – On Free Book, Plus More (interview and book giveaway)

Reviews

Novel Reviews Billy Coffey’s The Devil Walks in Mattingly Reviewed

Life is a Story The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

Burton Book Review The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

By the Book Book Review: The Devil Walks in Mattingly

Just Wondering A book review by Diana Trautwein

Electively Paige Spotlight: The Devil Walks in Mattingly

Regina’s Family Seasons The Devil Walks in Mattingly Book Review

5 Minutes for Books The Devil Walks in Mattingly

JoJo’s Corner Review and Giveaway

Savings in Seconds What’s the local haunt story in your neck of the woods?

Reviews from the Heart The Devil Walks in Mattingly

Goodreads Many great reviews by first time and long time visitors to the town of Mattingly.

Guest spots, Giveaways and other things worth mentioning

BookPage Editor’s Choice for Book of the Day
Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.50.36 AM

Fox News Opinion Page Regrets, remorse, and a boy named Ed
Fox News Logo

 

There’s still time to enter The Devil Walks in Mattingly   Kindle Fire HDX giveaway.

mattingly-400-click

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 5th. Winner will be announced April  7th right here on the blog. Watch me give the backstory of the book here.


Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by back here on April 7th to see if you won.

 

  • As promised last week, I’m giving away a signed copy of my book. Just leave me a comment below. I’ll draw an entry at random next Friday, April 4, 2014 and the winner will be notified via email.

    Devil Walks Update-1

Again, thanks so much for helping me get the word out about the book by sharing links via social media, reviews or just good old fashioned word of mouth. I’ve provided some links below:

Twitter: @billycoffey

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mattinglyva/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/billycoffeywriter

Join the Launch Team: Devil Walks in Mattingly Launch Team

An Invitation to Hell

March 24, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

For the last three months my buddy Kirk has sequestered himself in a rented cabin deep in the Blue Ridge mountains. As far as I can tell, he took with him only the barest of essentials to complete his stated purpose—a dozen bags of deer jerky, four cases of MREs (that’s Meal, Ready to Eat for you non-military folks), three cases of beer, and two dozen protein bars. That should get him through, he says. If not, he’ll just go hunting.

Get him through for what, you ask? Well, now there’s a story.

Kirk is an old high school classmate and friend. Back then he was awkward and shy and always had his head in a book—three characteristics that guaranteed he’d have a tough time until after his senior year. But he sat in front of me in freshman English and, well, some friendships are born of compatibility and others location.

Even then Kirk wanted to be a writer. A published one. But as both his talent and his confidence were lacking, he always qualified “I want to be an author” with “Probably won’t, though.”

Like a lot of high school friends, Kirk and I lost contact after graduation. But then I ran into him at the mall three months ago.. Well, not him. Not the Kirk I knew. This was New and Improved Kirk, and version 2.0 was quite different.

He had found a cure for all that awkward shyness.

Kirk had become a Ranger in the U.S. Army.

Now that he was out, he was back to pursuing his goal of writing a book. And in the spirit of his down-and-dirty Ranger training, he was locking himself in a cabin in the middle of the wilderness to do it.

And you know what? I bet he will. I can almost guarantee it.

There were a lot of reasons why Kirk wasn’t ready to be a writer in high school. You have to grow some and learn some and fail some and hurt a lot first. But more than that, you have to be trained. Kirk told me he’d had his training now. He was a Ranger.

I’d never considered special forces training and training to be a writer to be one and the same, but he was adamant. They’re exactly alike, he said. Both are a process that tests you, then breaks you down, and then shows you whom you truly are.

But to Kirk, his Ranger training gave him one very big advantage—he’d been taught how to be comfortable in misery. He knew how to embrace the thirst and the hunger. How to endure the cold and the heat. And above all, he knew he was being readied for war and that war was hell, which is why his drill instructors trained him to, in his words, “Get the damn job done. Regardless.”

I think he’s onto something.

Because you can (and should) read all the books you can about the craft of writing. You can learn about plot and character and point of view, learn to kill your darling adverbs and adjectives, and speak in present instead passive voice. But until you learn to be comfortable in misery, you will not succeed. Ever.

There are times when sitting down to write is an invitation to pure bliss, when the words leap from your fingers virgin and perfect and you know without doubt they come from the very best part of you. Enjoy those times. They will be few.

Because for the most part, it’s just the opposite. The writing life is not bliss. It’s roaming through the desert of one submission after another, searching for whatever scrap of food or drip of water you can beg, borrow and steal in order to stay alive. It’s enduring the cold of having nothing to say and the heat of knowing you must write anyway.

And above all, writing is war.

It is a war fought not against agents and publishers, but against yourself. It is a war in which the enemy isn’t acceptance, it’s surrender. And yes, it is hell. No doubt about it. But you know what? A writer, a real one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

I haven’t seen Kirk since. For all I know, he’s still up in the mountains writing his book. I like to think he is. I like to think he’s pounding away at those keys and fighting his war.

That he’s getting the damn job done. Regardless.

I like to think that’s what you’re doing, too.

“Devil” makes the rounds: Release week

March 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Devil Walks Update-3

It’s been a great week (and did you hear the “Whew!” as I wrote that?). The Devil Walks in Mattingly is now officially released, and with it came a flurry of reviews, interviews, and about everything else you could imagine, all made better by good folks like you.

I’ll be doing a giveaway here next week. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at some of the things people have been saying:

Interviews:

Publishers Weekly Billy Coffey: Writing a Different Ending

Windows and Paper Walls The Devil Walks in Mattingly-Q&A with Billy Coffey

AndiLit(dot)com Write Naked: A Writers Writer Interview with Billy Coffey

Ordinarily Extraordinary The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey

Flickers of a Faithful FireFly Coffee with Billy Coffey and a Giveaway

Reviews from the Heart Sittin on the porch talking with Billy Coffey!

Reviews:

Publishers Weekly Fiction Book Review: The Devil Walks in Mattingly

The Christian Post Novel Considers the Destructive Nature of Secrets and Regret

Faith, Fiction, Friends “The Devil Walks in Mattingly” by Billy Coffey

Patheos via Karen Spears Zacharias The Devil Walks in Mattingly

Guest spots and other things worth mentioning:

Faith Village The Devil Walks in Mattingly/Billy Coffey: excerpt

Southern Living: The Daily South Five Things You Need to Know in the South Right Now

The Good Men Project A Father’s Long Shadow:Author Billy Coffey speaks about the effect his father had on his life, and where it’s brought him now

Katdish(dot)net In Like a Lion: Favorite book releases in March

***

If you’d like to help spread the word about The Devil Walks in Mattingly, you’re invited to join the Launch Team on Facebook. We’d love to have you!

The Devil Walks in Mattingly

March 11, 2014 by · 7 Comments 

Devil Walks Update-3It’s human nature to want, then get, then want some more. All those shiny things that come into our lives can dull over time. The new gets old. That’s been proven true many times over in my life except for a few precious things. Today is one of those things.

My newest novel is released today—that makes number four, which just so happens to be four more books than I ever thought I’d get the opportunity to write.

The Devil Walks in Mattingly should be available everywhere. It’s a great story, and my favorite so far.

Below I’ve posted links to where you can pick up a copy, just in case you’re in need of something new to read. And as always, I thank each and every one of you who take the time to visit my little cyber cabin in the mountains. None of what I do would be possible without you. Cross my heart and hope to die.

 

 

Available from these fine online retailers and your local brick & mortar book store:

a.com_logo_33bn_logo_33 bam_logo_33Paper Angels at CBD.comPaper Angels at Powells Books indie-logo_33

When the gray seeps in

March 3, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

I blame the writer in me for the messes I sometimes get myself into, all of which I tell myself were begun with the best of intentions. Label something as “research,” for instance, and a writer can give himself permission to do almost anything. “Education” is another good example. We should always be learning something, growing, both in mind and in heart: becoming both better and more.

That thought was running through my head several times over the course of the past couple of weeks, when I decided to sit down to watch three of the most celebrated television shows to have come along in a while. The writing is spectacular, I heard. The ideas immense. Deep characters. Deeper mysteries. All things that appeal to me in my own work. The best way to improve your own craft is to immerse yourself in the craft of others. That’s what I was thinking when I sat down to watch marathons of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and True Detective.

If you’ve yet to see any of these shows or only a couple, I’ll say they are at their core the same thing: Broken people doing some very bad things. Their worlds could not be more dissimilar—the monotony of suburbia, a feudal Dark Age, the stark backwater of the south. And yet the view of each of those worlds is much the same in that each show portrays the world as ultimately meaningless and empty, therefore power is the only means to safety. The critics I’d read and the friends who had recommended those shows were indeed right. The writing really was spectacular, the ideas really were immense. The characters were layered. A few of the mysteries were nearly imponderable.

But still: yuck. After all of that, I needed a shower.

Here’s the thing, though: given bits and pieces of those shows, I don’t think it really would have been a problem. I’m no prude when it comes to entertainment; I’ll admit I sometimes enjoy my share of a gray worldview, though I’d much rather see it from my sofa than in my own life. But immersing yourself in it? Watching over and over until it seeps into the deepest places inside you? Well, that’s a different thing all together.

Yet that’s our culture now, isn’t it? There really doesn’t seem to be any hope out there, whether it’s in music or television or literature. There was maybe a time when the arts existed to prod society onward, to inspire and lift up. More often than not, they now serve as a mirror, showing what we’ve become in a series of melodies or flashing frames. Television, movies, music, and stories have grown increasingly dark because we’ve grown increasingly dark, not the other way around.

The other day, I came across an article written by a neuroscientist that affirmed much of what our mothers once told us: garbage in, garbage out. The article cautioned great care in the sorts of stories we allow ourselves to be exposed to, whether it’s the nightly news fare of war and recession and political meanness, or whatever slasher film is playing down at the local movie theater. Because those stories all carry meanings, and those meanings will, consciously or not, impact the way in which you view life and the world around you for good or bad. If you don’t know how to draw something positive out of what happens in life, the neural pathways you need too appreciate anything positive will never fire.

That’s evolution, the neuroscientist said. Maybe. I’d call it human nature.

It’s easy to succumb to the notion that everything is random, meaningless. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that the world is too big and too far gone to ever be able to make a difference in it. The key is not to rise above, but merely survive (which, by the way, is my theory of why the zombie culture is so prevalent now). What’s hard is to believe. What’s hard is to carry on. It is to find purpose in where you are and in what you’re doing, no matter how insignificant it seems. It is to find dignity in this thing we call life, and to bring beauty to it.

ANSWERS

February 10, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 10.55.39 AMTo a certain extent, ritual plays a part in every life. We all adhere to our own ceremonies to mark the important occasions that come along. It can be something as extravagant as a neighbor of mine plans every Thanksgiving, when his home becomes a meeting place for family scattered to all corners of the country. Or it can be as small as the shot of whiskey a friend of mine takes at 4:12 in the afternoon each July 27, in remembrance of his father’s passing.

My own ritual—smaller than either of those I mentioned, yet to me no less significant—revolves around cleaning out my desk before the start of every novel. It is no mammoth undertaking, usually requiring no more than an hour’s time and involving no more than shelving books and filing papers. But I like to start fresh with each story I write, and nothing says fresh more than an empty slab of oak upon which to write.

As I cleaned and filed and shelved this morning, I came upon a tattered manila envelope at the bottom of a stack of papers. ANSWERS had been written diagonally across the front in red permanent ink, in a hand I can scarcely recognize now. The inside bulged with notes and scraps; newspaper clippings; magazine articles; letters written to me and copies of letters I’d written to others. Some were dated as recent as last year. The oldest had 4 Oct. 89 scrawled along the top.

I spread them out before me, reading each one until I remembered, trying to place the where and why of myself—what it had been that led me to include those stories there, in my envelope. I am not to the point that I can say I have lived many years upon this earth, have accumulated many things along the way, and yet I have always counted that envelope among my most important possessions. Because, what you see, what rests in there are all the questions I wish to ask God when I am able to see Him face to face. They are the things I wish to know.

I will stop short of calling that envelope EVIDENCE FOR PROSECUTION, though I admit it was very nearly labeled that instead of ANSWERS. And whom was I determined to prosecute, way back in the very dawn of my adulthood? God, of course. And for the single reason that I did not approve of the way He did things.

Laugh at that all you will. Take a look inside my envelope, though. You may change your mind.

You’ll see an obituary for a high school classmate of mine, who was killed in a freak accident not two years after our graduation—a bright, funny, loving boy, full of life until he wasn’t.

You’ll find a story of a missionary tortured and killed.

A small girl who wandered from home and became lost in the woods, never to be found.

A single mother of three, dying of inoperable cancer.

Accounts of oppression, disease, and injustice. Diary entries of heartbreak and doubt. Themes of death and evil. Tales that over the years forced me to wonder what you or anyone else have wondered at one time or another—

How can a good and loving God allow such things?

At a certain point, I understood there would be no answers to that question on this side of life. People have been questioning the origins of evil and it’s place with God for thousands of years, and we are not too far down the road to answering it. So I’ve kept all my questions here, in this envelope.

How exactly I would get that file to heaven with me was something I never quite figured out. In the past few years, I’ve devoted less and less time to pondering that problem. Not because evil no longer bothers me—it does, perhaps more now than ever—but because of the very likely possibility that I won’t care much about my questions in heaven. I’ll be too full of joy. I’ll be too busy spending time with all those who passed on before me, and preparing for those yet to arrive.

I still don’t understand a great many things in life. I suppose I always won’t. I don’t know why there must be cancer, and why that cancer must take so many innocent people. I don’t know why there is evil, or why there seems to be so much more of it than good.

I don’t know why God does the things He does, or allows what He allows.

But I can do one thing. I can approach those questions now as though they were parts of a story, one I would write just as God writes His own upon all of creation. And I would say—not as a pastor or theologian or philosopher, but as a storyteller—that it is far more beautiful a thing to be redeemed than be innocent. It is far more amazing for fight for peace in a fallen world than to maintain peace in a perfect one.

And it is far more noble to spend your life in search of something than have nothing to search for at all.

Writing stuff that matters

January 30, 2014 by · 8 Comments 

Devil Walks Update-1She walked up to me at the end of church last Sunday, one wrinkled hand stretched out in search of my own. Her woolen coat was already cinched and her hat pulled down tight, leaving only a wisp of white curls jutting out the sides. She smiled, and I noticed her teeth were too straight and too white to be her own.

“I’ve just read your latest novel,” she said, and then she patted my hand.

I grinned. “Really? Well, thank you, ma’am.”

“Don’t thank me.” Still smiling. “I didn’t like it at all.”

She kept her hand in mine and squeezed, wanting to reassure me that all was still right in the world.

“I see.” It was all I could think to say. “I’ll have to try better next time.”

“I read your first book. Snow Day. That was wonderful.”

“Thank you.”

“Such a nice story. Almost like a Hallmark movie. Have you ever thought of doing a Hallmark movie?”

“I don’t think that’s up to me,” I said.

“But this last one…” She made a face. It was all sadness and misery. But it hid her teeth, and for that I was grateful. “I just don’t know what’s happened. This last book? Awful. Too much heartache. And the characters? The bad ones were good and the good ones bad, and I never knew who was right and who was wrong. And the deaths. Awful, awful stuff. How could you write something like that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Just kind of came to me, I guess.”

“You were always such a good boy. I’ll pray for you.”

“Can always use that, ma’am.”

“Good. Now you go write something like Snow Day. What a lovely book. There was no blood.”

She walked on, tackling the last button on her coat as she did, then tucking her Bible under her arm as she shook the preacher’s hand and then walked into the cold outside. I stood there alone and grabbed my own Bible, trying to find my family and my thoughts.

She was right, you know. There was no blood in my first novel. There was some in my second. A bit more in my third. I suppose I could have told her my next book will be out in March and is called The Devil Walks in Mattingly, but I think that would have only decreased her respect and increased her prayers. I wondered if that kind old lady would read that book. I hoped so and kind of didn’t.

When my first novel came out in 2010, I felt as though I had reached a distinct midpoint in my life. The same world that so often had played out in front of me full of disappointment and despair brightened in the sharp light of hope. I had crawled through the valley. Climbed the mountain.

I felt born again, again.

That feeling hasn’t lessened. Every novel I write is to me a miracle, evidence that God isn’t quite done with me yet. It still sometimes feels like I’m crawling through a valley and climbing a mountain. The only difference is that at the top of that mountain there is always another, higher one, and another, deeper valley. But that’s life for all of us. Those joys we feel, the days of contentment and peace? Those things are merely the peaks upon which we stand and rest before continuing on our long journey to a land we cannot see but can only feel.

After standing on so many of those peaks, I suppose a part of me changed. My writing certainly did. I am a product of my environment, of a small town and blue mountains and dark hollers and folktales of ghosts and angels, brimstone and grace. Between you and me? I sort of ran from that at first. I wanted books that were easy and inspiring. No pain. No hurt. No loss.

Not anymore, though. And ironically enough, it was church that convinced me otherwise. It was my faith. It was that kind old woman’s faith. It was faith in a book we believe is the very Word of God, a book of stories about a serpent bringing ruin; a baby left to float down the Nile in a basket; a lowly shepherd boy facing a giant. A book about a righteous man suffering much for no reason and a prophet being swallowed alive by a whale. Of cities destroyed and countries enslaved. A savior hung to die on a cross. Heartache and blood.

Not easy stuff to read. But real stuff. Stuff that matters a great deal.

Next time, I’ll tell her that.

How bad do you want it?

January 20, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

It’s amazing how many conversations I have with people that end up with them saying, “Well, I’m working on a book, too.”

I met one such person at the local bookstore last week. Nice fella. Rooting around the reference section and about to pick up a copy of On Writing, by Stephen King. We got to talking. Sure enough, he’s a writer. Has two manuscripts sitting in the top drawer of his desk back home. Funky stories, full of zombies and whatnot. They’re good, he promised. I didn’t doubt they were. He has dreams of agents and publishers and auctions and signings, all of which will happen as soon as he sends those manuscripts off. That’s the problem. He can’t seem to get either of them out of the drawer.

I nodded. He explained that deep down, he’s afraid an agent or editor just won’t understand the depths of his writing. I nodded again. Happens all the time, he said, and then he held up the book in his hand and asked if I knew how many times King had been rejected before he made it big, or Grisham, or Rowling. I said I didn’t but guessed it was a lot. He nodded gravely and whispered, “Oh yeah. A LOT. I can’t handle that, dude.”

He bought the book. Saw him in line a little while later, thumbing through the first few pages and nodding as he soaked up Mr. King’s words.

I couldn’t really think bad of him. I was that man once. I think we all are in a way. Doesn’t matter who we are or how old we happen to be, we all have dreams. We might not act upon them, but they’re there. We have all at some point sat in the middle of our lives, looked around, and said, “There’s gotta be more than this.” That’s my theory—none of us really want a lot, we just want a little more than what we have.

But the thing is this: often, that little more we want requires a lot. A lot of risk, a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice. In the end, that’s what separates the ones who manage to reach their goals from the ones who don’t. Sure, talent plays a part. But talent can only get you so far. My friend in the bookstore may be the next Tolstoy, but none of us will ever know. Writing is easy. It’s sending it out into the world that’s hard. It’s wanting it bad enough. And when I come across people like that, I think of Wayne.

I met Wayne years ago at the boxing gym. Huge guy, hands as fast as lightning. While the rest of us were there to get in shape and occasionally get the snot beaten out of us, Wayne had higher aspirations. He wanted to turn pro. And he wanted it bad.

Trained every day. Fought as often as he could. He racked up wins and knockouts, took on ranked opponents, climbed the ladder. His dedication was inspiring. Having him there made me work harder and sweat more. There was no doubt in my mind he’d make it.

Wayne worked construction during the day, said it kept him in shape. He was two months away from the biggest fight of his amateur career when an accident mangled the ring finger of his right hand. The doctor said he’d need surgery, followed by a few weeks of rest. And absolutely, positively no training.

The fight would have to be cancelled. No telling how long it would be to reschedule. Wayne’s dream of turning pro hung in the balance. So he did what he had to do.

He cut his finger off.

Nope, not kidding. Did it himself in his garage one evening. Trained left-handed for the next week, had his fight. He won.

That’s what it takes to succeed. It’s the only way. Doesn’t matter if it’s writing or boxing or college or a new career. You have to want it, and then you have to go get it with a mindset that says you’ll get up every time you’re knocked down. You won’t surrender. Ever forward, never back.

Even if it means losing pieces of yourself along the way.

The lost art of snail mail

November 21, 2013 by · 6 Comments 

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 6.33.49 PM“Can you help me?”

A common enough question in the course of my workday as a college mailman. Asked by the old and the young alike, but mostly the young. And I am generally in a well enough mood to reply Yes, I certainly can help you, even if I am generally not in a well enough mood to be excited about the prospect. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned in my long and storied career of postal delivery to a bunch of 18-21 year-olds, it’s that they often need a lot of help. A LOT.

So, just a bit ago—“Can you help me?”

Yes.

Young lady, nineteen-ish. I pegged her as a junior. Not because I knew anything at all about her, but because I’ve been here long enough to be able to guess such things with a modicum of accuracy. It was the way she dressed—pajama bottoms and a raggedy sweatshirt, which told me she’d been here long enough to not care anymore but no so long that she understood it just may be time to start growing up a little—and the way she addressed me—in the eye. She’d laid the envelope, pen, and stamp on the counter in front of her. When I walked up, she was staring at all three as if they were all pieces to some exotic puzzle.

I asked what sort of help she needed, which could have been anything from needing a zip code to how much postage was needed to mail something to China. But no, neither of those.

Instead, she said, “I don’t know how to mail this.”

“Just fill it out,” I told her. “I’ll mail it for you when you’re done.”

“No. I mean, I don’t know . . . how.”

“How to what?”

“You know. Like, fill this out.”

She pointed to the envelope and stared at it. I stared at it, too. Because I had no idea what she was talking about.

“You mean,” I asked, “you don’t know how to address an envelope?”

“No.”

“You mean, No, that’s not it? Or do you mean, No, I don’t know how to address an envelope?”

Now she looked at me. Her brow scrunched. I got the image of her seated in some classroom desk, trying to split the atom.

“I don’t know how to address an envelope,” she said.

I’ll be honest—it took me a while. Not to show her how to address an envelope (which, as it turned out, took much, much longer than a while, took what felt like an eternity), but for what this young woman told me to finally sink in. She really didn’t know how to address an envelope. Had no idea where to put the stamp, where to write her home address (it was a card, she said, to her mother) and not only where to write the return address, but what a return address was.

Nineteen years old. Junior in college. I can assume this young lady was bright, or else she wouldn’t be in college. And resourceful. And driven. Capable, too—she whipped out her iPhone and danced through so many apps to find her mother’s address that it nearly gave me a seizure. But when it came to something as commonplace as sending a letter? Nothing.

“Nobody sends letters anymore,” she told me. “It’s so 1800s.”

She finished her envelope and affixed the stamp (after being told where that went, too). I had to sit down for a bit afterward. My head was killing me.

Now I’m thinking:

Is this really where we’ve come? Have we really raised a generation of children who are so dependent upon technology that anything without a button is an unsolvable mystery?

But there’s something more as well, something far worse. In our instant world of texts and emails and Facebook posts and tweets, that poor girl has missed out on one of the true pleasures of life. She has never sat at a quiet desk with paper and pen to write a letter. She has never pondered over the words that have leaked through her hand and fingers, never slowed enough to find the rhythm of her words and her heart. She has never felt the trepidation of folding those words (and her heart) into thirds and stuffing them in an envelope sealed with her own saliva—her own DNA—and placing it in a mailbox. Never worried that her letter maybe wouldn’t get to where it was meant to go. Never felt the exhilaration of finding a sealed reply waiting for her days or weeks later.

Give me the new, the world says. Give me the shiny and the bright. I say take it. I’ll keep my paper and pen.

Packing Light

September 6, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Screen shot 2013-09-06 at 8.20.02 AMI always wanted to run away as a kid. Wait. That came out wrong. What I mean is that back then, all I ever wanted to do was leave home. No, that isn’t it either.

Let’s start over.

Growing up, there was a cornfield across from my house. On the other side of that was the railroad track that cuts through town. The train still comes through twice a day. More, if the freight is good. I remember standing on my front porch as those trains rolled through, staring at the open doors on all those empty container cars, wondering where that train was going. How long it would take to get there. How easy it would be to hop on.

I wanted to see the world. Chuck it all. Run away. I wanted to leave home and see the country.

Never happened, of course. But it did for Allison Vesterfelt. She left her home in Portland at age 26 with a friend, some bags, and a single plan—to visit all 50 states. The chronicle of her adventure (and that’s what it turned out to be) is found in her book, Packing Light.

Ally’s book caught me. She tells her story with a refreshing honesty, including just how frightening it can be to do something extraordinary. Imagine leaving everything behind—your job, your home, your family—and lighting out into the territory. Thrilling? Yes. Scary? Absolutely.

And yet Ally did it anyway, and on the other side found blessings that will comfort her for the rest of her life. That, really, is what this book is about—the lessons she learned along the way.

Things like embracing the unexpected. Changing your expectations. Losing your way. Choosing your path. Hers is a reminder that the great and mighty More a lot of us want in life really won’t bring us happiness. Most times, the peace we crave comes in having less.

“Knowing how valuable you are,” she writes, “and acknowledging your tiny role in a larger story is a difficult balance to strike. It’s easy to see one or the other, but it’s difficult to hang on to both at the same time. It stretches us, like a kid reaching for the next rung of a monkey bar, until eventually we find our arms stretched out wide.”

To me, that’s the best part of what Ally accomplished. Like all adventures, she went looking for the world and found herself.

Packing Light is a great read, and I highly recommend it. To learn more, visit the Packing Light page on Amazon.

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